Big Seas, mal de mer

Nothing worthwhile without some pain?

There is this theory that life is challenge, that living and experiencing a good life involves risk of both discomfort and failure, that nothing really worthwhile comes easy. I think I can buy into that theory…..
On what happily seems to be evolving into a regular “Friday Challenge” we set sail on Jigsaw at around 1500. It’s cold with the odd patchy downpour but the weather has moderated to a forecast 18-20kt Sw’ly. ‘Blue sits forlornly on her mooring, tugging at the bit, wishing to follow as we motor out into the harbour proper.
The Skipper and his new (to him) old boat are getting into a groove now. No more the panic of recovering from an engine not properly warmed. No more struggle with sticky fittings and sail luffs. Jigsaw and crew are slowly becoming a well-oiled machine.
The tanker out of J-berth is long gone by the time we draw abreast but as we shape a course to leave Duncan a behemoth accompanied by two tugs heaves into view, totally blocking the channel. A couple of slow pirouettes later we sneak out behind the docking convoy and start to feel the weather and waves as Ben Schoeman falls away to starboard. The far horizon is lumpy, a sure sign that the successive fronts and storms of the previous week have done their job well, leaving behind them a steady 5m sea rolling in from the southern ocean. The tankers at anchor roll through sickening 30 degree arcs, telling the same story as the wavy horizon. 
We are about to be tested!
And that after all is why we are out here in the cold, wet, raging sea rather than wrapped up warm and cosy next to a bar-side fire somewhere. We’re here to gently push the limits of our experience and capability, to test and improve the boat and her systems. Even though I’d prefer to be on ‘Blue, sailing another boat is always worth the effort because there is deep learning to be had in these conditions. How does the boat respond to more sail, less sail? Why is this particular beat so flat and dry despite the 5m swell when other times have been pounding and wet? Why close inshore are the waves regularly spaced mountains and valleys but  far out into the shipping lanes the sea suddenly becomes confused and uncomfortable? 
That’s one of the appealing things of sailing a small boat I think. It’s always challenging, always satisfying when one successfully completes a voyage, long or short. But it’s not yet time to think of the future, safely tucked in on the dock. There is plenty of rough and cold sailing to be completed first. 
And of course there is the rising mal de mer
lf there is anything that has me thinking of selling up and taking to the bowling green it’s the sea sickness. It’s a recurring challenge for me, especially when the sea is up like this. Despite the Epanutin taken early in the day I feel the dreaded nauseating monster lurking close and I try standing, sitting, everything to ease the discomfort, to avoid the inevitable rush to the rail. Worse still, I need to drain the bilges and I spend a full 5 minutes down below trying to take a leak in a head that will not keep still for a moment. 
Deep down I know the Skipper has his heart set on continuing out to the far western horizon but I convince him to tack and ride the waves back into calmer waters. With a quartering swell from astern, Jigsaw takes a bit more effort to steer now and the odd coincidence of wave and gust has the helm fighting the tendency of the boat to round up, beam to the approaching water. Rolling away a bit of the genoa has us back on track and we race an incoming freighter while surging up to 8kts down the wave fronts.
Back on the dock, as a very satisfying afternoon fades into wintry darkness, the conversation ranges wildly from the philosophically deep to the plainly ridiculous while an aromatic beef curry simmers on the galley stove. This feels like the good life!
Another Friday Challenge happily completed. Another step closer to far, far away – but always the looming mal de mer demon. Although it seems to be trending to better the more I expose myself to the ocean out there, I do think that this particular demon is perhaps my make-or-break challenge that I must face in my dreams of the a worthy and satisfying cruising life? 
And that begs the question “Is the good life worth the pain?”
Perhaps, but I’m often not sure of that. Often not sure I’m tough enough. Perhaps it’s the bowling green for me after all?

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